The Most Exciting iOS & Android Games of 201910 Jul 2019 22
The mobile gamer can look back at 2018 with an affectionate and misty eye, secure in the knowledge that gaming on mobile devices gets more diverse, sophisticated and polished with each year. In this respect, 2019 also is shaping up to be a banner year on this front.
Roughly speaking, the most exciting upcoming games can be split into three groups: the name-brand megahits-in-waiting, boardgame adaptations, and indie projects. Read on to see what the who’s who of mobile gaming are cooking up for this year’s treats.
- Fluxx - Playdek are bringing back their digital adaptation of iconic card game Fluxx, which was lost in the iOS 11 Appocalypse. It's due out on July 17th and provided you still have access to the original account you purchased it on, existing owners won't need to 're-purchase' the game again.
- League of Legends Mobile - Riot are another company trying to port their heavy-hitter game to mobile. We've only had vague reports so far, and we're not even sure it's coming out this year, so it gets a quick mention for now pending further information.
- Dead Cells - Being an action/platformer, this isn't something we usually cover, but the mobile port of this critically acclaimed indie game will be arriving on August 28th. Here's a trailer.
Commandos 2 HD (Real Time Tactics)
If you're a reader of our sister website, Strategy Gamer, you may have spotted at some point us mentioning that Kalypso Media (on mobile you'd know them for Project Highrise & Crowntakers) are doing HD remasters of Commandos 2 and Praetorians, two classic RTS games from the "good 'ol days". What you might not have spotted is that, in addition to PC & consoles, Commandos 2 specifically is being ported to mobile platforms - so iOS, Android and Switch (including the Switch Lite, we assume). One of E3's more surprising announcements, especially from a mobile perspective, and we can't wait to see how it takes to being on handheld. If you've never played Commandos 2 (or any Commandos game) here's the official blurb to help you along:
In Commandos 2 HD Remastered, take control of an elite group of commandos who must venture deep into enemy territory and utilize their combined expertise to complete a series of notoriously demanding missions set in World War II. In this genre-defining classic, explore interactive environments and use your commandos’ unique skillsets to complete your mission against seemingly impossible odds.
The PC/Console version at least is probably landing in Q4 2019, but we're not sure if they're aiming to have mobile release at the same time. If not, this one could actually slip to our inevitable 2020 list, but we're happy it's coming either way.
Phantom Doctrine (Turn-based Strategy)
Another one a few of us here are really looking forward to. Phantom Doctrine was an attempt to make an XCOM-like game set during the Cold War. You run an international spy agency and you must train up your agents, develop their cover and embed them in locations, as well as engaging in other acts of espionage and intrigue. There's a 'base/strategic' part, and then a turn-based tactical part. What stops this from just being a token nod towards Bond-style espionage is that most turn-based tactical battles can start off peacefully, and even end without a shot being fired provided you do your job well enough.
It's pretty good, although it was a bit glitchy when it first launched, but provided how well XCOM fits on tablet and mobile, I have no doubt the mobile version of Phantom Doctrine is going to be right up our alley. Considering there was no word of an actual release window, perhaps a 2019 release is a bit ambitious but what the heck, we're excited!
Tom Clancy's Elite Squad (Collectable RPG/Battler Thing)
Not sure if this is turn-based or real-time thing - there's not much information beyond the E3 2019 trailer. Ubisoft will be offering players the chance to assemble a 5-person squad with characters from across their franchises, where you need to collect and upgrade characters and fight in 5v5 battles against either the AI or other players. There's going to be a single-player story + guild vs. guild warfare.
No release date, but pre-registration is already live so I'm expecting at least a beta or something this year, with perhaps the full release early next year if not by Christmas. I stand by what I said when we originally reported on this though - I think Ubisoft are missing a trick by not making this an Auto Chess game.
Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall (As Above)
Behavoir Interactive (them what made Fallout Shelter) had their own announcement as this year's E3. In the same vein as Ubisoft's Elite Squad, BE are working with HBO on Beyond the Wall, another RPG/Strategy/Squad Battler thing. Usually, separate new games sharing the same basic DNA signifies an emerging trend but, again, I think the guys have completely missed the fact that Auto Chess is happening.
Still, all the parts are there to make this a potentially compelling experience - you've got to recruit people into the Night's Watch, go on rangings beyond the Wall and defend said Wall from wildlings. This trying to cash-in on the recently finished television show, there will be some magical based mumbo-jumbo reason to recruit, or collect, famous people from the TV series as well (this game is officially set half a decade before Book 1, so you can imagine there'll be a bit creative license going on here). Pre-registration is live on both iOS & Android, so hopefully we'll learn more about this soon.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar (Tactical RPG)
This is a tactical RPG inspired by Final Fantasy and its ilk, but made by a western studio. It was incredibly well received on PC/consoles when it released in 2017, and now we're finally getting a mobile port. It'll feature featuring deep dungeon diving, turn-based combat presented in a classic JRPG format, and a rich story driven by exploration of the world and will release on August 1st. We've seen that there's info on minimum device specs around, so make sure you've got the right tech.
Final Fantasy (Tactical RPG)
We're lumping two Final Fantasy games into one entry because there's not much to say on them at the moment. At E3 it was announced that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle's Remaster will also be hitting tablets and smartphones. We're expecting that to drop in the Winter. Here's the trailer:
Meanwhile, Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is getting a tactical RPG spin-off, War of the Visions. We're not 100% on details or release window yet, but it's also got a trailer:
Minecraft Earth (AR)
It seems 2019 is the year people finally try and jump on to the Pokemon GO craze. It's only been three year! Minecraft Earth is Microsoft & Mojang's answer to the likes of Ingress Prime and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Different from the existing Minecraft experience on mobile, this AR-fuelled game comes with a number of key concepts. First and foremost, people can explore the world in real-life, checking into locations on their phone much like how Pokestops work. These locations net them resources which can be used in the building mode, which is reported to be just as free-form as the original game. Finally, those constructions can then be placed in the real-world, so anyone with their phone can explore and interact with them.
This seems like a pretty decent marriage of Pokemon GO-style AR and a popular IP. Say what you want about Microsoft, none of their various Minecraft versions have felt like cynical cash-ins, so it'll be interesting to see how this one turns out. A beta of some kind is expected later this summer.
GWENT: The Witcher Card Game (Card Game)
One can never have too many card games in their lives, or at least, that's what the makers of all of the Hearthstone wannabes like to tell themselves every night before going to sleep. GWENT started life a a mini-game within The Witcher 3, but it proved so popular CDPR decided to spin it to create their own take on a digital card game. It's been out on PC for a little while already, and is now officially due to make its leap to mobile later this year. No details as to when yet, but we'll keep you posted.
Out of the Park GO! (Sports/Management)
While not the all-father of sports sims that is Football Manager, the OOTP Baseball series holds just a firm a place in baseball fans hearts. The mobile incarnation of OOTP has been a series of games called MLB Manager, the most recent of which we reviewed last year. It seems the developer is starting from scratch for the next iteration, even re-branding it to become OOTP GO! Here's what they have to say about it:
OOTP Go! will be free to play, which includes full access to Perfect Team and the ability to create and play fictional solo leagues. The current MLB rosters are a $4.99 in-app purchase, international leagues will be $1.99 each and historical MLB seasons will be (as usual) $0.99 (plus there will be bundles available for a reduced price).
Last thing we knew, it was due for release sometime this summer on iOS & Android.
Dire Wolf Digital (Board Game)
This isn't the name of a game, but the name of a company that announced this year they're making a bucket-load of digital board game adaptations. Because we only have the announcement text to go on, we've decided to keep the new games all in one place until we know more. The games Direwolf are bringing to digital (which afawk also includes mobile devices) are:
- Mage Knights – It's worth noting this is the first step in a bigger agreement with WizKids, so it's likely we'll be seeing more announcements this year.
- Wings of Glory – A popular table-top aerial skirmish game.
- Raiders of the North Sea – An excellent worker placement game themed around the 8th and 9th century viking raids (pictured).
- Yellow & Yangtze – a Reiner Knizia tile placement game of civilization building.
- Sagrada – A dice drafting game about creating works of art.
- Root – the recent Kickstarter sensation about asymmetrical warfare in the woods.
We're not sure which project is due to appear first - possible WizKids & Mage Knights, given the importance that project has within the announcement? We'll update as we learn more.
Call of Duty Mobile (Shooter/Battle Royale)
Announced at GDC 2019, this latest Call of Duty-on-mobile spin-off is the latest in a long series of mobile adaptations of the hugely popular FPS franchise. This latest attempt appears to be following in the vein of games like Fortnite & ARK - offering a fully 3D, fully-developed version of the main franchise that can run on phones and tablets. From what we know so far, it's going to be a kind of 'greatest hits' compilation of modes, maps, characters etc... and may even feature a Battle Royale mode (putting it in direct competition with Fortnite, which is popular on mobile as well as desktop). We've not had official confirmation its coming this year, but pre-registration is open and we'd be surprised if Activision allow too long a lead time on this.
Mario Kart Tour (Racing)
It’s been practically a year since this title was first announced and outlined with few concrete details added between now and then. Nintendo’s mobile offerings have run the gamut, from the premium Mario Run, the Miitomo social & style app everyone tried and forgot about, to the successful and generally great Fire Emblem: Warriors. Mario Kart is a treasured and classic franchise, even amongst Nintendo offerings, so that reputation guarantees some level of careful handling. It remains an open question whether the game will be a premium or freemium model, but the launch date is still projected to be March.
Diablo Immortal (Action RPG)
Diablo Immortal will draw some side-eye and mockery, having been already made notorious because of its horribly mistimed announcement. (Yes, we have phones, but read the room, Activision-Blizzard). Even more puzzlingly, the game is being created in partnership with NetEase, a Chinese developer whose resume already includes ‘Eternal Realm’ (无尽神域) itself essentially a Diablo clone. Weird stuff: the official license merging with a pretender to the throne to make a hybrid project together. Concerns about endless grind or re-skinning of Eternal Realm are well-founded, but while most of us will be as judge-y as possible we’ll also probably still give the final product a try. Good action RPGs live or die by loot, character progression and above all, delicate-yet-accurate controls, so it will be interesting to see if Diablo Immortal will be a good game as well as the inevitable cash cow.
Five Tribes (Boardgame)
Five Tribes, oldie but goodie, will make its digital debut this year. Days of Wonder has been updating and digitising its catalogue at a steady pace and with fantastic results. Five Tribes central mechanic is just like mancala. Pick a space and drop the meeples one by one along the path. Dead simple, but if you think it makes the game easy, you’d be dead wrong. The Five Tribes each possess unique scoring criteria and effects, and the turn-order bid means timing depends on correctly valuing the current layout. Many simple bits add up to make a nigh-perfect game.
Scythe: Digital Edition (Boardgame)
In another history, the Great War also ruined Europe and annihilated a generation, but its nations and technologies faced the blight and devastation quite differently. With large mechs, steampunk agricultural combines and faux-Eurasian player nations, Scythe gives each player a unique entity to steer to victory. Engine building games are always efficiency races, conversion puzzles, but Scythe’s unique setting, eye-catching miniatures and indirect player confrontation quickly made a it a fan favorite amongst the gaming community. Its rollout on Steam has been smooth experience, with decent AI and a robust tutorial. The assets and UI will translate well to mobile and what used to cost near three figures will be available to most anyone for a fraction of the price.
Terraforming Mars (Boardgame)
Terraforming Mars sounds like a noble goal for all of humanity. In reality, the game is a push-and-pull competition for corporations to garner by prestige by...terraforming Mars. Three categories: oxygen, temperature and ocean coverage dictate the endgame, but to get there, players will reshape the red planet into a bright blue hope. It’s a Euro though-and-though: precisely balanced, intricately co-dependent and inevitably point-based. But the close match between theme and mechanic makes this game deeply satisfying and intuitive to learn and explain, and the action selection mechanic is uniquely innovative and inspired. Just when I think boardgame design is tapped out, something truly exceptional rises to the top.
A limited beta is already in progress on mobile, so hopefully it's not too much longer before we can get our hands on this one.
This one has been incubating forever but should be worth it when it finally gets here. Ed McMillen (of Binding of Isaac fame) has been teasing this cat-breeding simulator for ages. The game has been described as a mix of Tamagotchi, Pokemon and the Sims, with its signature art style courtesy of McMillen. All bets for a playful wild game about the weirdness, sweetness, malice and all-around havoc of cat-raising seem to be right on the money. The ideas are there, the premise is promising, the only question remaining is when it will get here.
Overland (Finji) (TBS/Survival)
Overland is tactical turn-based survival meets cross-country road trip (from hell). Each waypoint is a battle, a flashpoint conflict over some minor life-extending objective. Its overland map and procedural generation seem reminiscent of FTL (or its follow-up Into the Beach) but the setting here is familiar people struggling with post-apocalyptic daily hardship. Water, medicine, gas, weapons: the items are banal but vital. The game uses minimalism and scarcity to great effect, sketching characters and strategic scenarios alike with the barest elements.
Impossible Bottles (Rhythm/Action)
Various robots move about in their bottles and raging about like a bull in a china shop. Each level presents one of these Impossible Bottles for the player to fix by manipulating the environment and repairing the situation, or at the very least soothing its sole occupant. A scientist built these robots as part of a perpetual motion machine for unlimited energy, but they don’t quite work as is. The secret to fixing everything is music, or in gameplay terms: rhythm. One-touch gameplay and lush, fantastic art, with a slated mid-year release.
Nowhere Prophet (Card Game)
Nowhere Prophet (Pictured): this one is a doozy and a little secretive. The dark horse of this race, if you will. In the game, post-apocalyptic leaders trek across a scabrous landscape to gather supporters and supplies, occasionally clashing with foes or environmental dangers. This card game has grid-based combat as well procedurally generated encounters. It’s a card-battler roguelike, essentially, with a unique setting and what seems to be a robust battle system. Current indications state it's due to release this Summer.
Heaven’s Vault (Interactive Fiction)
Inkle (of 80 Days interactive fiction fame) has been teasing their mechanically ambitious Heaven’s Vault for some time now. An archaeologist-slash-xenolinguist explores the dusty remains of an alien civilization on an unknown planet, with a vivid backdrop of sienna sand and celestial blue. There’s some pretty nifty procedural tricks behind the code-breaking and translation, and while its approach to storytelling is a little less handcrafted, it has the potential to have even more surprises and replayability than the globe-trotting 80 Days.
Other Missing Games From 2018
As a reminder, here is a quick list of some other games we were expecting last year, but never turned up:
- Bad North (RTS)
- Exodus: Proxima Centauri (Boardgame)
- Epic Card Game (Card Game)
- Lord of the Rings Living Card Game (Card Game)
- Monster Slayers (Card Game)
- EVE: War of Ascension (MMO)
Best 2019 Mobile Releases So far
There's already been some excellent releases this year, and not all of them were expected/on this list. If you haven't already, check these games out:
- Astrologaster (??)
- Tharsis (Turn-Based Strategy)
- Shards of Infinity (Card Game)
- Fort Sumter (Boardgame)
- Dungeon Warfare 2 (RTS)
- Cultist Simulator (Card Game/Sim)
- Necrodancer AMPLIFIED (Roguelike)
- The Castles of Burgundy (Boardgame)
- Star Traders: Frontiers (RPG)
- Legends of Andor (Boardgame)
- Evolution: The Video Game (Boardgame)
- The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (Simulation)
Seen any other games coming out this year you're excited about? Let us know in the comments.